The Key to Success: Do Unto Others


Mr. Burnham is an insurance adviser and author (CPCU and CLU) in Southbridge, Massachusetts.

Set aside your envy. Set aside your prejudices. Today, in terms so simple, with logic so irrefutable, you’ll discover the key to financial success, understand the two moral imperatives to its attainment, and learn who best serves his fellow men. And, you’ll see how you can be successful and why you should be.

If someone satisfies your wants or needs, you’re willing to pay him. The more and the better products he provides you, the more you’re willing to pay him. That obvious truth also works in reverse.

Our economy is so intricate and so complex that most people, through envy and prejudice, have lost sight of this simple truth: We are all paid in exact proportion to the service we render others. The more anyone wants your products, the more he will pay you. And, the more people who want what you have to offer, the more they will pay you. So, to achieve financial success, simply offer more and better products to more people. Remember, and this is important, you must offer what others do want—not what you think they should want.

If you want something you have exactly four choices:

1)       produce what others want and trade with those who produce what you want,

2)       make it for yourself,

3)       do without, or

4)       steal it—either directly and illegally, or indirectly and legally by having the government take it for you through taxation or regulation.

Stealing is unethical and counterproductive whether you steal for yourself or hire someone, with your vote, to steal for you. Other people won’t produce as much when they don’t get to keep and control the fruits of their labor. And, you’ll diminish your own self-esteem.

Doing without doesn’t do you any good and leaves everybody else worse off too. You won’t be as happy and they’ll have to do without whatever you would have traded with them.

Making it for yourself is an acceptable alternative except that it lacks all the advantages inherent in producing what others want and trading with them.

Finally, producing what others want and trading with those who produce what you want benefits everybody. Why? For three reasons. First, by specializing in the areas we do and like best, we are each as productive and happy as we can be with our work, so total wealth and happiness are maximized. Second, in every voluntary exchange, each party gives what he values less for what he values more, so total satisfaction is increased. And, third, such trading builds good- will, decreasing the frequency and severity of both crimes and wars, so the prospect of peace is increased.

Upon understanding these simple truths, some people are surprised to discover that it’s not the well-intentioned social workers, the unfailingly honest government workers, or the hard-working labor classes of the world who best serve humanity. Instead, it’s the inquisitive inventors, the profit-seeking capitalists, and the self-interested entrepreneurs who best serve humanity. In fact, the best single indicator of how well a privately-employed person serves his fellow men is his income. People don’t earn high incomes by rapaciously crushing the little guy. They earn high incomes by efficiently filling the needs and satisfying the wants of others.

To sum up, you should seek your own self-interest. Why? To promote your natural right to survive and prosper. How? By serving others. You should serve others. Why? To benefit yourself. How? By trading better goods and services with more people.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Satisfy their wants and needs. It’s the best way to attain the riches of this world.


December 1982

comments powered by Disqus


* indicates required


December 2014

Unfortunately, educating people about phenomena that are counterintuitive, not-so-easy to remember, and suggest our individual lack of human control (for starters) can seem like an uphill battle in the war of ideas. So we sally forth into a kind of wilderness, an economic fairyland. We are myth busters in a world where people crave myths more than reality. Why do they so readily embrace untruth? Primarily because the immediate costs of doing so are so low and the psychic benefits are so high.
Download Free PDF




Essential Works from FEE

Economics in One Lesson (full text)


The full text of Hazlitt's famed primer on economic principles: read this first!


Frederic Bastiat's timeless defense of liberty for all. Once read and understood, nothing ever looks the same.


There can be little doubt that man owes some of his greatest suc­cesses in the past to the fact that he has not been able to control so­cial life.


Leonard Read took the lessons of entrepreneurship with him when he started his ideological venture.


No one knows how to make a pencil: Leonard Read's classic (Audio, HTML, and PDF)